Vol. 1 - No. 6 

June, 1982

Various Kinds of Faith

by R. L. (Bob) Craig

 We read the word "faith" in many places throughout the New Testament. Often it refers to something different from that to which it had reference in another passage. Let's look at a few such instances, and these are not nearly all that there is concerning the matter.

"Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17) "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin." (Romans 14:23) "For we walk by faith, not by sight." (2 Corinthians 5:7) "... earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." (Jude 3)

On many occasions I have heard all of these passages used to indicate the same thing -- that is, that we must have book, chapter and verse for all we do in religion. Certainly that concept is true and there are many verses to prove such but I believe that we stretch the scriptures sometimes in our efforts to impress this thought on our listeners or readers or those with whom we may be studying. Let us be careful to do as Paul directed the young evangelist: "handling aright the word of truth."

Jesus said, "Except you believe that I am he, you shall die in your sins." The only way anyone would ever know that Jesus is truly God's son would be through a reading, a hearing or understanding of the evidences concerning that fact, and an acceptance of these things into one's intellect. John put it like this in John 20:30, 31: "And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name." I know of no other way that anyone could possibly come to a belief of the sort mentioned without an examination of scripture, so, "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." The word "hearing" as used in this passage, is not speaking of the audible sound of preaching or pulpit preaching, if you please. but actually, coming to an understanding of the facts. That understanding could come by hearing the audible sound of preaching but it could also come by reading the scriptures in the quiet of one's own home. So, except you believe that Jesus is God's Son, you cannot have eternal life, but the only way you can become aware of that Sonship is by hearing the Word.

The Word is often referred to as "the faith." Faith as used in that setting is not used in the same way the Hebrew writer uses it in Hebrews 11:6: "Without faith it is impossible to please God." This has to do with our personal faith while Jude is speaking of the body of truth that has been revealed from heaven. Paul is speaking of the same thing in Ephesians 4:4 when he says that "there is one Lord, ONE faith, and one baptism." There is ONE body of truth revealed in the New Testament--one faith--the faith that Jude said we should earnestly contend for. So, we have our personal conviction or belief that Jesus is truly God's Son--one use of the word faith--based on our understanding of the body of truth--the faith--another use for our word--as found in the New Testament.

Now, let's look at another use of the word "faith" as found in Romans 14:23. "Whatsoever is not of faith, is sin." That certainly sounds like Paul is saying that whatever we cannot find in the Book has to be sin. But if you look closely at the context you will see that he is talking about a belief that I hold and, perhaps, am the only one who has that belief. In particular he is talking about some who believed (personal persuasion) that it was wrong to eat certain kinds of meat. Seemingly there were several who had that belief because we find Paul writing the Corinthians about the matter, too. But it makes no difference whether there is just one or many who hold to a particular notion. What we are thinking of right now is the fact that this is a personal notion or opinion. Note that word "opinion." Matters of opinion is the subject under consideration by the apostle. He is not talking about what the New Testament (the one faith) teaches at all. In fact, he is talking about what the New Testament does NOT bind nor loose. He says that you may eat or not eat. You are no better from having NOT eaten nor are you the better for having eaten. It just makes no difference. "Let each one be persuaded in his OWN mind." Whatever we decide as a matter of conscience will be our own conscience, our own conviction, our own opinion and MUST not be bound on anyone else as a "matter of faith." It is a matter of my own belief and as such must be observed, BY ME, or else I defile my own conscience and thus become guilty of sin. "Damned if I eat." For "whatsoever is not of faith (my own personal belief or faith based on my own opinion and not on 'the faith') is sin."

"For we walk by faith, not by sight." In this passage Paul is not discussing whether or not we walk in harmony with the teaching of "the faith." Once again, if you will, look closely at the context beginning in chapter four, verse sixteen. He is here discussing the great beyond. He speaks of our inward growth, the looking forward to being relieved of the present afflictions and taking on the weight of glory. Then in chapter five he tells of the dissolving of this tabernacle, this body in which we now reside, and taking on the future building which will be, rather than temporal or temporary, eternal. It is the great expectation of those who were so tormented by their persecutors in that day, that there would be relief. That there would be something by far better than that which we now possess.

If we would just consider how severe the persecutions were in those days. We think we are sorely tried today. We are in the condition Paul spoke of in the Hebrew letter: "Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin." (Hebrews 12:4) The people of whom he was writing in Corinth had or would soon experience that kind of resistance. They needed something to hang on to for comfort, so Paul was assuring them of what he already knew: that there was a heaven to which they could attain after awhile. There was, indeed, something better to look forward to. It was not like he had talked about in the fifteenth chapter of his first Corinthian epistle. "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." This was to be their motivation. In fact, I believe that the word motivation would fit in exceptionally well in this context. "For we walk (are motivated) by faith, not (motivated) by sight."

This, I believe, is a very similar idea to that expressed in that 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians when he speaks of those who were "baptized for the dead." And that "I die daily" and "why do we also stand in jeopardy every hour?" This is all for the purpose of trying to get people to be faithful even in view of death, because there is something greater that we have not yet seen.

Sight, as used in our passage, does not mean the doctrines and commandments of men as is generally taught, but those things of a material nature that so often becomes the motivation for doing what we do. Faith is the opposite. The things that are so valuable, the things that are eternal, are those things which we cannot see. We only know of their existence by faith. So "we walk by faith, not by sight." Faith here has to do with my motivation to keep on keeping on.

There is much more that can be said in regard to the word "faith," but these few remarks are what we had in mind at this time. Many false notions are abroad in the land that need to be put to rest concerning faith. Certainly, "the one faith" is that body of truth upon which my personal faith rests and that kind of faith is the kind described by the apostle as to "the saving of the soul." (Hebrews 10:39) Let us live in harmony with "the faith once delivered;" let us continually confess our faith in Jesus Christ as God's Son; let us be motivated to continue serving God regardless of the consequences because there is a better land "tomorrow," and let us keep our own personal opinions, our own personal beliefs to ourselves and not try to make them a rule of faith and practice neither for ourselves nor anyone else.